Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Unsatisfactory quality of government-led social housing programme for B40 households - Khazanah Research Institute
An estimated RM150 mil worth of vaccine doses gone to waste. The end of Toyota Camry (in Japan). Former Taiwan president landmark visit to China.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
Despite the banking turmoil, the Bank of England and other European central banks followed the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to fight inflation.
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
Another day, another company cutting jobs. Leading global professional services company Accenture is cutting 19,000 jobs, citing lower annual revenue and profit forecasts as the main reason. The worsening global economic outlook is making corporates cut spending on IT services.
Significant wastage by the country as 2,796,638 Covid-19 vaccine doses have expired as of Feb 28. Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa said this comprised 3.27% of the total vaccine doses acquired by the Malaysian government, including contributions. In March 2022, the Health Ministry told the Dewan Rakyat that a total of 88.1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine worth an estimated RM4.72bil had been ordered by the government — based on this figure alone, that’s an average of RM53.58 per dose. Almost RM150 million was wasted.
42% of North Koreans were malnourished between 2019 to 2021, according to a report by the United Nations. As a result of poor weather conditions and a shortage of fertiliser — partly due to the country’s self-imposed three-year quarantine, food production was only 4.5 mil tonnes last year, 3.8% lower than the year before. Barely sufficient for the country’s 26 mil people.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Politicians in the spotlight
In Lim Guan Eng’s RM6.3 bil Penang Undersea Tunnel project corruption trial, the prosecution told the court that the defendant’s application to get the forensic report of the WhatsApp conversations on the RM2 mil payment was a tactic to waste time. However, defence counsel Gobind Singh said that his team only has part of the conversation. The defence team is also requesting the forensic report as well as Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli’s report lodged with the authorities against G Gnanaraja. Gobind is trying to show that the key witnesses, Zarul and Gnanaraja, are lying in their testimonies against Lim.
In another unrelated matter, the Finance Ministry denied the allegations made by London-based blogger Raja Petra that a senior ministry signed off the cancellation of Yayasan Albukhary’s tax exemption status during Lim Guan Eng’s tenure as the Finance Minister. The ministry had lodged a police report regarding the allegation.
Communications Deputy Minister Teo Nie Ching lambasted Arau MP Shahidan Kassim’s accusation that her ministry was responsible for interrupting Shahidan’s live stream on TikTok. Speaking under the so-called ‘freedom of speech’ in the Parliament, Shahidan previously accused Teo’s ministry of disrupting his live TikTok session, claiming that her ministry and TikTok are working together to suppress the Opposition. When Teo asked Shahidan to keep calm, he relented sarcastically and said, “With this, I will retract my loud voice. I will soften it down. Arigato.” 🤦♀️
Zahid said that T20 MRSM will not use public funds
Deputy PM and Rural Development Minister Zahid Hamidi told the Parliament that the proposed paid MARA Science Junior College (MRSM) will only be using private funding and will not be built on MARA lands. Zahid said that there is a demand from the academically affluent to enter MRSM, but they are barred from joining as MRSMs are being gatekept for the B40.
As a refresher for everyone, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA), the custodian of MRSM, was created in 1966 to lead the socioeconomic development of the inhabitants in rural areas. So, when it comes to the T20 MRSM, does this proposal in any way benefits the B40 in the rural (and urban) areas? If the answer is no, just scrap the proposal and move on.
KRI releases a report on the PPR program
Recently, the research arm of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Khazanah Research Institute (KRI), published a report on the effectiveness of the social housing program (PPR). Based on the findings from the report, the government-led social housing program failed to provide a satisfactory quality of housing for the B40 households. The current social housing program provides sub-standard housing units, so the Government is merely rehousing poor people in poor living conditions at slumps into poor-quality stratified housing. So, for the said B40s, it is like going out of the frying pan into the fire. You can view the summarised report here.
Interestingly, the Local Government Development Ministry just announced a 28-member Panel of Experts to advise the ministry on the matter of housing, among others. Hopefully, this will not be another jawatankuasa syok sendiri. Unfortunately, 28 people are definitely 23 too many.
A little bit of business news before we wrap up the week
Jackpot for Sunway Construction Group Bhd (SunCon) as the company bagged the RM604.86 mil tender to build the station and viaducts for the Johor Bahru–Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) project. SunCon’s construction order book as of 4Q22 stood at RM5.3bil compared to RM4.1bil at the end of 3Q22.
Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd sold its entire stake in HS Credit (Manchester) Ltd (HCML) for approximately RM837.84 mil to Lei Shing Hong Capital Ltd (LSHCL). This deal was a right pocket-left pocket transaction for Lau Cho Kun, who is the largest shareholder of Hap Seng and the ultimate shareholder of LSHCL. Most of the proceeds from the deal will be used by Hap Seng to reduce its borrowings level and to be utilised for its working capital purposes.
Note: This isn't the same Hap Seng that makes the classic cream crackers. The biscuit company is Hup Seng, which is also listed on Bursa. Hap Seng’s market cap is RM13.3 bil - 23.4x bigger than Hup Seng’s market cap of RM568 mil.
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4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Former Taiwan president to visit China in historic visit
China-Taiwan relationship isn’t as fraught as it seems - depending on who’s in power in Taiwan. Former president Ma Ying-jeou’s office announced that he will be making a trip to China this month, the first time a former or current Taiwanese leader has visited since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949.
Ma, a senior member of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party, will be touring various cities to meet students and visit historical sites connected to World War II but did not say whether he will be meeting any Chinese leaders or China’s President Xi Jinping. KMT traditionally favours close ties with China but denies they are pro-Beijing.
Taiwan’s ruling party Democratic Progressive Party has criticised the KMT for being too close to Beijing and wanting to sell out Taiwan. KMT defended that it is important to keep communications open with China, especially given rising tensions.
Fun fact: Taiwan’s official name is The Republic of China. China’s official name is the People’s Republic of China.
Russia-Ukraine: The Cost of War
In a joint report prepared by the Ukrainian government, the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations, it estimated that USD411 bil is needed over the next 10 years to recover and rebuild Ukraine, noting that this is the minimum amount as long as the war continues. Cleaning up the rubble alone would cost USD5 bil.
The report also detailed some of the economic and human tolls:
Two mil homes damaged
More than 1 in 5 public health institutions damaged
650 ambulances damaged or stolen
At least 9,655 civilians confirmed dead, including 461 children
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it has reached a staff-level agreement (which needs to be ratified by the IMF board) with Ukraine to provide a 4-year financing package worth USD15.6 bil. This marks the organisation’s first-ever loan to a country at war.
Read full report: Ukraine - Rapid Damage & Needs Assessment
The End of Toyota Camry (in Japan)
After 43 years, Toyota Motors will discontinue sales of its flagship model in the Japanese market by the end of this year. The word Camry comes from the Japanese word for “crown”.
Some interesting facts on Camry:
Toyota has sold more than 21 mil Camrys in over 100 countries through the end of 2022.
Annual global sales of Camry is about 600,000 units
Camry is currently in its 10th generation, released in 2017.
In the US, more than 13 mil Camrys have been sold, ranking it the top-selling passenger vehicle in the US for 15 straight years through 2016.
In China and Southeast Asia, Camry is seen as an aspirational car for its high-end image.
In Japan alone, Toyota has sold 1.3 mil Camrys since it debuted in 1980. Last year. However, its recent sales are a different story. Fewer than 6,000 Camrys were sold last year in Japan as the Japanese favour SUVs and minivans in recent years, hurting sales of sedan, partly explaining why Toyota is discontinuing it.
Hindenburg Research, the US short seller that exposed Adani Group, teased the upcoming report in a tweet. It has now released its full report that took two years to complete. Its new target - Block Inc (fka Square), the payment processing company founded by Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey, alleging the company facilitated fraud. Block’s share price plunged 20% upon this news. Read the full report here.
Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for the sixth year running, according to the World Happiness Report 2023, published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, together with a team of independent experts.
To celebrate its repeated success, Visit Finland is now offering 10 people the chance to come to the country and learn how to be happy the Finnish way, which is scheduled to take place over four days in June at the Kuru luxury retreat - all expenses paid for. Apply here - but you need to make a Reels or TikTok vid showing that you “may secretly be a Finn”.
Read report: World Happiness Report 2023
Whiskey brand Jack Daniel’s trademark infringement has escalated to the highest court in the US - Supreme Court. The company claims a dog toy company, VIP Products, has infringed its trademark, but the toy maker argues that it is an obvious parody and should be protected as free speech.
This report by Al Jazeera tells the tale of the challenging filmmaking industry in Malaysia faced by minorities. Despite that, some found success - by taking their filmmaking talents abroad - like Michelle Yeoh.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
How drones are used to deliver blood and medical supplies to hospitals in Rwanda.
How to use ChatGPT — ask it to do things for you. In other words, be specific.
This is deep and meaningful